Whether you buy a flagship smartphone for gaming or for productivity, top of the line specifications and a great design are an obvious expectation. In recent times, exceptional camera quality and great optics too have also moved to this list of ‘obvious’ features from being one of the unique proposition for a device till sometime back. Also Read - iPhone 13 to come with faster charging as compared to iPhone 12
Both Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 have terrific camera, and represent the top end of what’s available in smartphone camera technology at the moment. Of course, we like to push things further, and hence this shootout in common photography situations between the two, arguably, the best smartphone cameras in the market right now. Also Read - Apple TV Plus for free: PS5 owners get six months subscription free of cost
I’d like to point though, that the captured photos – while the most important part – aren’t the complete story. Launching the camera app, navigating through the interface, and sharing the captured photos are important cogs of the camera experience for a smartphone. Also Read - Amazon Prime Day sale deals revealed: Discount on OnePlus Nord CE, Mi 11X, Samsung Galaxy M42
The Galaxy S6, for example, edges the iPhone 6 slightly in terms of quick camera launching. Two presses of the home button launches the camera at any time, even while locked, in less than a second. In mobile photography, this one is a pretty handy edge to have.
Additionally, Samsung has done a pretty neat job with the camera interface in Galaxy S6. It provides extensive options, and quickly lets you toggle often-used features right on the camera and jump into the settings to change video resolution, stabilization, grid lines, voice control, et al. Of course, you can toggle to the ‘Pro’ mode to dive deeper and set focal length, white balance, ISO, and EV manually. The iPhone 6, on the other hand, believes in simplicity. There aren’t many settings to configure, and everything you can do with the camera is right in the main interface including switching to different modes like square, panorama, video, slow-motion, and time-lapse with simple swipes.
For capturing quick shots in auto-mode, both phones excel exceptionally with seamless user experience and navigation. However, if you are looking to tweak camera settings for greater control, Samsung Galaxy S6 is the one.
For the purpose of this comparison, we took random shots at different locations in diverse light conditions. All shots were taken with the camera in hand (no tripod or any other mounting aid), in auto mode with default settings, and with auto HDR enabled. That’s how most people take pictures on their smartphones – pick a scene, take out the phone, and snap a picture.
None of the photos showcased here have been edited whatsoever. You’d notice the difference in aspect ratio of the two phones (16:9 to 4:3) and it’d appear as if I’m closer or farther to a scene in some photos, which was not the case. Because the shots were taken from the two phones one after the other, slight differences in framing or the scene would’ve crept in.
Also, before writing this feature, we did view the photos on the same display, essentially, transferring it to the computer. It’s tough to compare photos while viewing them on the smartphones in question because of the difference in display technology – IPS LCD on the iPhone 6 and Super AMOLED on Samsung Galaxy S6 – since each offers a different viewing experience with varying accuracies of brightness, contrast, and colour saturation.
(You can check our comparison photos in full resolution here)
Outdoors in Daylight
Most high-end smartphones these days, and some mid-range ones too, are pretty solid in well-lit conditions. As long as there is daylight and the software processing is optimal, the captured shots are accurate. The better ones amongst these though derive the brilliance from that extra bit of processing to get the right sharpness and contrast.
In our comparison here, the white balance between the two shots strikes instantly. The Galaxy S6 tends to produce warmer images while the iPhone 6 turns out cooler ones. Unless the warmth is overdone (and lead to inaccurate colour reproduction), most people prefer warmer images.
The photos from Galaxy S6 are brighter and sharper. Sometimes though, these are oversaturated, and the colours go overboard. The iPhone sticks to more natural and muted colours. The photos are exceptional, but when placed next to each other, you’d prefer the warmth of Galaxy S6.
When you zoom into the images or blow them up on your computer, you’d notice that the Galaxy S6 captures far more details while keeping the sharpness intact.
Indoors in Low light
Despite the advances in mobile phone photography, you miss your DSLR when you are at a dimly-lit pub with your friends or camping outside in a forest. The camera software of the phone struggles as it ultimately boils down to the limitation of the camera sensor.
To put it simply, when there is less light available, you’d need a larger camera sensor. Of course, that’s not a choice you have, and most smartphones struggle to accommodate a large camera sensor in a thin body. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a f/1.9 lens while the iPhone 6 packs in a slower f/2.2 lens.
What makes Galaxy S6 our easy pick for this round is the inclusion of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). OIS reduces the camera movement or shake when you are clicking a photo and allows for shorter shutter speeds. The hardware advantage is similar to having a faster lens, one with a lower f-stop number.
The Galaxy S6 exploits the package – OIS with a fast lens – pretty well. In low light conditions, it manages to take quite nice pictures at a slower shutter speed and lower ISO. The photos turn out to be bright with decent colours and relatively low noise. The shots captured by the iPhone 6 had a lot of noise, sometimes with unacceptable contrast. The difference is glaring, really. And surprising. The photos from Galaxy S6 are far smoother and brighter with decent colour reproduction.
Sometimes though, the Galaxy S6, over did the magic. Some night time photos turn out to be way brighter than the actual scene. The same shots on iPhone 6, grainy though, appeared more authentic to the scene and were more accurately bright.
There have been quite a few decent competitors of the iPhone in the past that stood their ground, but the Samsung Galaxy S6 manages to take over the mantle of the best smartphone camera at the moment. It takes exceptionally clear and punchier photos in daylight, and the hardware manages to get some pretty nice shots in low-light conditions as well. While the daylight photos are bright and warm, the low-light photos have little noise and have mostly accurate colour reproductions.
Mind you, the iPhone 6 packs in a terrific camera and captures beautiful shots. It only takes a hit when the photos are compared side-to-side with the Galaxy S6. The photos are consistent during the day with more natural colours, albeit less bright than one would wish for. The lack of OIS though really shows in low-light conditions, and that’s when it struggles to match up, despite accurate scene reproduction in most cases.
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